FRA Proposed Rule Promotes Adoption of Advanced Train Braking Technology To Improve Rail Safety and Efficiency

WASHINGTON — Advanced brake technology will enable locomotive engineers to significantly improve train control and allow trains to safely travel longer distances between required brake tests under new proposed federal rules, announced U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters.

“Trains with better brakes mean safer railroad operations and improved rail freight service,” said Secretary Peters, explaining that Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes provide improved train control through simultaneous and graduated application and release of the brakes on all rail cars, a significant safety improvement over conventional air brake systems.

In addition, Secretary Peters noted that the proposed rule would permit a train to travel up to 3,500 miles—more than double the current maximum distance—between routine brake tests. With ECP brakes, many long-haul trains can travel directly to their destinations without stopping because the technology performs continual self-diagnostic ‘healthchecks,’ she said.

“The safety benefits of ECP brakes are obvious and they make good business sense as well,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph H. Boardman.

Boardman said that, under the proposal, an intermodal container train equipped with ECP brakes originating from West Coast ports could operate all the way to Chicago without stopping for a routine brake test, as it must do now. Similarly, many ECP brake-equipped coal trains could make quicker deliveries from western coal fields to eastern and southern power plants because stopping for the routine brake test would be unnecessary.

He added that ECP brakes can help avert some train derailments caused by sudden emergency brake applications, prevent runaway trains caused by loss of brake air pressure, shorten train stopping distances up to 60 percent under certain circumstances, and improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions through better train handling. He further noted that the first ECP brake-equipped train operating under an approved waiver is expected to make its initial revenue service run in September.

— Special to News Wire